There’s gold in this here town, as Elisabeth Easther discovers.

Origin of name:

The town popped up following the discovery of gold in the mid-1860s and was named after George Ross, provincial treasurer of Canterbury.

Population: Today there are 297 people in Ross, quite a drop from the 2500 who lived here during the height of the gold rush.

Claim to fame: New Zealand's largest gold nugget was unearthed in Ross in 1909; weighing 3.1kg or 99.9oz, it was dubbed the "Honourable Roddy Nugget" after Roderick Mackenzie, Minister for Mines at the time. Although don't expect to clap eyes on it, because in 1911 the nugget was given to King George V as a coronation gift and was melted down and gilded on to a tea set. Prior to that it was used as a doorstep at the local hotel before being raffled off to raise funds to build the local hospital.


Town mascot: The Old Gold Miner - 8ft high tall and made of corrugated iron, he points the way to town.

Famous locals: Steve Maitland (paralympian cyclist, jade carver and musician), Kev Foster Sr (champion axeman), Daphne Minehan (international netball ref), Philip Ross May (historian) and Samuel Mitchell (VC).

Best website: and there's a nice Facebook group as well.

Big business: Gold mining and tourism keep Ross in beer and skittles with the new-ish West Coast Wilderness Cycle trail helping to boost visitor numbers.

Town fiestas: The Woodham Shield is a hotly contested rugby match in memory of George Woodham who was shot while out deer hunting in 1949.

A town for all seasons: If you visit in spring, the trees on the main street will be heavy with blossom. Autumn is also spectacular, ditto winter and summer.

Fresh whitebait. Photo / NZME
Fresh whitebait. Photo / NZME

Best reasons to stop:

Ross is popular for bush walks, bird watching, fishing, whitebaiting and hunting.


Kids love: Gold panning - hire a pan at the Ross Goldfields Information and Heritage Centre and try your luck right outside the centre or down at Jones Creek - or, if you're feeling lucky, ask a local for a secret spot.

Best parks: There are lots of reserves dotted about the town, from the rugby grounds to Pioneer Park by the swimming pool. The area beside the information centre is pretty popular, look out over Birchfield's Hole (is it a little lake or a large pond?) where you'll find barbecues, bathrooms and facilities for campervans.

Best playground: Right next door to the school, there are slides, swings, see-saws and a jungle gym.

Best walks: Ross Waterway Walk is an easy one hour loop. Starting at the visitor centre, it passes by a miner's hut, dams and tunnels and along the way you'll be rewarded with views across Ross and the Tasman Sea. For an easy 20-minute trot, zig zag up to the cemetery and read the headstones.

Climb every mountain: If you fancy a hearty hike, trek up Mt Greenland, at 18km the walk takes about seven hours there and back. Fab bush and bird life and, on a clear day, the views are outstanding.

Best views: Either from the top of Mt Greenland or from the cemetery.

Best place to pull over: Take a picnic to the beach at sunset, the sculptural driftwood is epic.

Best swim: If you swim in the sea, be sure to respect it - on a good day it's fine but in rough weather it can be a big angry monster. Swim in the local pool during summer for a modest entry fee or dip in the Mikonui River if you'd rather. Or paddle in Birchfield's Hole.

Best museum: Ross Goldfields Information & Heritage Centre is a mine of information (ha!). Run by locals, you can learn all about local history which was pretty wild back in the day.

Nice arts: The museum has a neat shop where you can purchase local art, crafts, souvenirs and gifts. Or stop in at The Ross Art Studio and Gallery (next to the dairy) where you can buy the works of local artists including impressive pottery.

Cream of the coffee: The Roddy Nugget Cafe serves a super brew. Alternatively grab a cuppa at The Empire or the local grocery store.

Hungry? The Roddy Nugget bakes amazing pies and their whitebait fritters are delish - you'll never find fresher than on the West Coast. The marinated pork strips are rated highly, while their seafood chowder flies out the door. Or head to the Empire Hotel for a roast on Sunday night and live music.

DIY dinner: Time the tide right and pick a feed of mussels off the rocks - happily the kai moana on the West Coast is unlikely to be overfished because Mother Nature only allows humans to fish about 10 per cent of the year.

Wet your whistle: The Empire is a welcoming historic hotel. The open fire is the pub's heart and soul, although the real warmth comes from the people. Be sure to stop in for a jam session on the last Friday of each month. Because many West Coast homes only got power in the 1960s, musical traditions are strong around here because, for generations, people had to make their own entertainment.

Stay a while: With a hotel, a motel, several B&Bs, a backpackers and a campsite, you'll find the perfect place to rest your head.

Best mountain biking: The West Coast Wilderness trail is a little beauty. At 139km long it connects Ross to Greymouth and bursts with nature, history and beauty. Or go to Totara Valley, an easy half-day mountain bike ride (40km, grade 1).

Best adventure: Kayaking, bush walking, bird watching and, mountain biking. The region is also famous for trout fishing, whitebaiting and surfcasting.

Coming soon: The Chinese Memorial Gold Miners' Gardens should be up and blooming next year, ditto the Motorcycle Museum.

Best kept secret: The West Coast Treetop Walk, just minutes from Ross, is a canopy walkway through mature rimu forest that is 20m high and 450m long and truly astonishing.

Wildlife: Birds, seals, deer, pigs, trout, salmon and whitebait.

The verdict: Good as gold.

Where is it
In the South Island's Westland district, 27km southwest of Hokitika.